Twilit and sinister, oozing with ague, bad airs, boggarts and other spirits: in the mind's eye marshes, bogs and swamps are dangerous, crepuscular – and only partly of this world. For centuries wetlands – and their inhabitants – have been the object of our distrust: we've drained away their demons, encroached upon and denuded them, ripping away not only their fragile beauty, botany and birdlife, but also the carefully calibrated lives of those that have come to understand and thrive in them.
In Swamp Songs, Tom Blass takes us on a journey through these strange lands and waterscapes. Travelling from Romney Marsh to Virginia, from Lapland to the Danube Delta, he meets and engages with the inhabitants of some of the world's least understood and precarious places, some of which are on the brink of obliteration. Along the way, he draws on the rich traditions of literature, folklore and mythology to uncover their forgotten histories, hidden wonders and untold secrets.
A dazzling exploration of nature on the margins of civilisation, Swamp Songs is a vital reappraisal and a vibrant celebration of our wetlands.
Tom Blass studied anthropology, law and politics, and has earned his living as a journalist and editor specialising in issues relating to business, law, human rights and foreign policy. He lives with his family in Hastings. His first book, The Naked Shore, was published in 2016.
"Bracingly original [...] Blass reveals himself to be more ethnologist than naturalist. While he pays respectful attention to the fauna that he encounters as he tacks from the Romney Marshes to Louisiana's bayous by way of the Danube delta, it is the people he is after."
– Kathryn Hughes, Guardian
"A mixture of travelogue, local history and reportage, Swamp Songs brims with evocative word sketches [...] Blass makes an exuberant and loquacious guide"
– Sara Hudston, Times Literary Supplement
"Enriching and magical, Tom Blass's writing is a pleasure to read."
– Donald S. Murray
"What a joy to roam with Tom Blass through some of nature's most unjustly maligned and underappreciated habitats, where webs of life interconnect wildly and wondrously with human stories. Swamp Songs is a delicious blend of ecology and culture."
– Amy-Jane Beer